As the post-COVID hangover slowly lifts and offers more clarity as to where the future of commerce is headed, there are still some remnants of brick-and-mortar industries that are functioning smoothly despite the obstacles of the last few years.
And while the majority of these businesses are global titans that had the funds and capabilities to withstand the pressures of the coronavirus, the number of small business casualties in the wake of the worldwide pandemic cannot be overlooked.
At one point, it almost seemed like all SMEs were destined to become the bitter aftertaste of a national credit crunch. But has the digitalisation of modern commerce given small businesses an innovative way of getting one over on their global counterparts?
The inevitable shift
While some may imply that COVID caused a monumental overnight shift in how people chose to conduct business and spend their money, the truth is that the digitalisation of global business was an inevitability.
Instead of a sudden digital overthrow that shunned manual processes in place of new technologies, the global pandemic served more as a line in the sand, where the differences between digitised companies and those who had yet to embrace it were clearer to see.
And within those lines were the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others, adapt to where the future of business was headed, and embrace the digitalisation of the modern small business.
Defining what it means to embrace digitalisation
Digitalising a small business is less about implementing sudden drastic changes and more about understanding the long-term benefits of a more agile and efficient company. Trends may come and go, but the innovations available to any forward-thinking business are there for the taking.
And with so much potential growth and integration at your fingertips, how can your business ignore this automated roadmap to future success?
Understanding the 5 main benefits of small business digitisation
While there are several benefits to digitalisation, let’s start by looking at what truly dictates the future of businesses – the consumer. In the UK alone, the following statistics shed some light on where customers are choosing to spend their money.
The UK is expected to reach 60 million e-commerce shoppers this year
Smartphones were used for the majority of online orders and traffic
Digital revenue is predicted to reach highs of over 285 billion dollars by 2025
With these external factors guiding more small businesses to turn fully digital, let’s explore the 5 biggest benefits that a small business can gain from the digitalisation of its company.
1. SME efficiency
Liberating your staff from laborious manual tasks helps to cultivate a faster, more accurate and more efficient business. In any small enterprise, there’s the risk of becoming a little complacent when it comes to honing in on what truly matters in an efficient business.
However, digitalisation pushes above this and refuses to allow any outdated processes to rest on their laurels. Instead, everything is elevated via flexible modern advancements like cloud storage, home working, and automated processes.
From a customer perspective, they’ll experience a quicker and more comprehensive systematic journey. From an internal perspective, the depths of new customer information at your disposal can be an invaluable part of better understanding them.
2. Stronger, faster administrative procedures
The efficiency that comes from automating manual processes can save SMEs valuable time that could be spent elsewhere. In any small enterprise, there’s a dedicated but extremely busy team that’s tight-knit and capable of covering multiple manual tasks at once.
But by using digitalisation to your advantage, you’ll be able to shift that group focus to things like additional training, critical tasks, and other elements of your business that bring in the money. This facilitates a happier workforce who can be upskilled to better serve the company and a simpler overall administrative infrastructure.
3. Improved internal processes
While there’s a big focus on how digitalisation helps to develop a better customer experience, back-office processes and other aspects of internal communications need to be an integral part of your digital evolution as well.
Like any fast-moving and cohesive machine, every part of your business needs to be working in tandem towards the ultimate goal. For SMEs, this means not losing sight of how important the following things are:
Emails and other business-related communications
Customer invoices and other payment processes
HMRC-recognised accounting software for digital taxation purposes
Digital security and response times to online threats
From a business perspective, it makes sense to embrace the benefits of MTD software, as Corporation Tax, VAT, and other taxations begin to transition into a fully-digital process that’s easier for individuals and businesses alike to manage. Think of your back-office processes as the fuel that’s pushing the other components of your SME forward towards that end goal.
4. Big data from smaller expenditures
This combination of efficiency in procedures and internal administration processes should help to lower the overall costs of running a business. And with Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) to help guide and upsell, there’s unlimited data to learn from in order to cultivate a future loyal customer base.
With that data comes a whole new slew of potential revenue opportunities to look at. By having the ability to pinpoint where you’re gaining the most online traffic or when you lose a potential customer, you’ll be able to make use of some huge data insights.
After all, modern consumers have come to expect a fast, fluid, and personalised customer experience. Regardless of the size of the business, this may be the final piece of your marketing puzzle, as long as you maintain consistent communication and engagement with your customers.
5. Communication across all levels of your business
To get all members of staff on the same page, it’s always best to provide some simple but comprehensive training on any new systems and procedures that are put in place. When all of these factors are unified and aimed at one true business goal, there’s no stopping it.
And that momentum will continue to grow, improving your workflows and processes each day. Employees will feel more empowered to complete objectives and communicate with other team members, and internal procedures will become tighter and more agile.
And this will cultivate more satisfied customers and help to develop a better relationship between your SME and the people who choose to give your their money.
Smaller steps today for a prosperous tomorrow
Small businesses can sometimes find themselves under tremendous pressure to meet deadlines or achieve specific goals. And when under that strain, it’s easy to put aside your long-term business strategies in favour of a short-term fix in order to get you through a difficult time.
Unfortunately, this is where oversights and missteps can occur, causing potentially irreparable damage to your brand and business as a whole. But unlike manual processes, which can leave gaps for errors, miscommunications, and confusion to grow, a digitised business pulls these distances together and points it in the right direction.
Then, through strong back-office processes, it pushes your entire business forward. In fact, making just a few small changes in your business today can be the first step towards harmony between consumers and your company, while maintaining that path that leads to your ultimate long-term successes.